Gleaned from Past Residencies: How to Guard Your Creative Time

Only five days until the 2013 Artsmith Artist Residency begins, which has stirred some reflections about making the most of a residency. One of the biggest challenges during a residency is making the transition from our everyday obligations to full immersion in our work. Effective techniques I've seen residents use include:

1) Telling colleagues, students, friends, and family you will only be available for emergencies, and will respond to all other communications after they return.

2) Truly ignoring your phone, email, texts, Facebook, and any other time-draining social activity.

3) Minimizing social time with other residents, too, and not being afraid to say, "Ordinarily I'd love to talk, but I need to focus on my work right now."

4) Allowing yourself a tiny amount of time for whatever your space-enhancing ritual is -- getting lighting and materials and creature comforts just right -- then digging into the work as soon as possible. These rituals are ways your mind and body try to procrastinate. Outsmart yourself.

5) Allowing yourself a tiny amount of decompression time. Take a short walk. Start the book you've been eager to read. Take a small nap. Then get started. Some people will take days to decompress. Again, it's just another way to procrastinate and avoid the work. The sooner you get started, the sooner you'll be engaged, and the decompression will take care of itself.

After reading this, I'm reminded that it applies to any creative practice, not just artist residencies and retreats. When I set aside time to work, I don't always guard that time, not only from others who would encroach upon it, but from myself. Dang, maybe I'd better print this out and put it in my workspace. Or would I be procrastinating and creating busy work that keeps me from the real work?


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